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Steaming @ The Elgiva Theatre, Chesham

Published by: Yvonne Delahaye on 23rd Sep 2013 | View all blogs by Yvonne Delahaye

Set in a Turkish baths in London’s East End, Steaming is a play about 6 women who meet and chat about their lives, then become united in trying to save the baths from closure.  When it was written and first performed in 1981 by Nell Dunn, it won an Oliver Award for best comedy.  32 years on though, the play appears dated, coarse and irrelevant to today’s world.

It is a problem to find plays with good roles for women, but the blatant full-frontal nudity throughout the show made it very difficult to listen to or care about each woman’s plight.  One chap sitting near to me spent most of the time with his head in his hands and one lady behind me commented that women really don’t walk around like that in baths in the UK.

Ruth Curtis as the bath attendant gave a spirited, sincere and energetic performance as Violet, who listens and offers advice to all the women, then takes up the cause to stop the baths from closing.  Gaye Poole created a lovely warm, comic character as Mrs Meadow and these 2 ladies both projected to the back (we were in Row G and had to strain to hear a lot of the dialogue).  With the lack of projection, clear diction and energy in the first half we noticed that a number of people left in the interval, though the second act was a bit stronger.

A great deal of money must have been spent on the set, which had radiators, pipework, a kitchen, several doors, loungers and a screened off area. There was also a cold water tub, which the nude ladies jumped into several times, making us feel that we were being voyeuristic watching a soft porn show. It saddens me to think that when terrible atrocities are being committed against women around the world, this sets the cause back exponentially.

This current production of Steaming was performed as a one-off run at The Elgiva Theatre in Chesham from 18th-22nd September.

Reviewed by:
Yvonne Delahaye



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